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Eddie Fowlkes, Decatur High’s historian, passes away


Eddie Fowlkes, Decatur High’s historian, passes away

Eddie Fowlkes

This story has been updated. 

Eddie Fowlkes passed away on April 1, 2016 after battling brain cancer.

Fowlkes, 62, was a part of Decatur High School and vice versa.

He graduated from the school. His siblings went there. One brother, David, played basketball and baseball at DHS from 1971 to 1976. Fowlkes’ wife, Anne Wyche Fowlkes, was an art teacher there. He coached baseball and cross country there. His daughter and his son-in-law went to school there.

And when he retired from his job, he never really left.

He spent much of his free time being the school’s historian, scanning yearbooks, preserving trophy cases and saving what he could. Susan Riley, his colleague for about 12 years, said Fowlkes salvaged the school’s history before it could be casually thrown away.

“There was a time when people were cleaning out the basement of the school and throwing things away, and he was just grabbing it,” Riley said. He even took it to his garage for safekeeping. She recalled when he found trophy cases in the old gym and had them moved over to the high school.

“Before he moved them over to the new facility he had the cases completely redone,” Riley said.

Fowlkes was the go-to source for anything related to the history of Decatur High sports. In 2014, he provided much of the information for an article about the history of Decatur High’s football program.

It’s been a tough couple of years for the Fowlkes family. In addition to Eddie’s passing, his father, “Doc” Fowlkes collapsed in the stands and passed away after a Decatur High basketball game in February of 2015.

Riley nominated Eddie Fowlkes for a Decatur Hometown Hero award in 2012. In her nomination, she wrote, “Eddie Fowlkes has made a tremendous difference for the pride and joy of the City of Decatur and our school system. He is regularly at the Decatur High School library researching the yearbooks and documenting. He is called the historian who has lovingly cared for the hundreds of bits and pieces of history that remain.”

Chris Billingsley, a retired Decatur High teacher, considers Fowlkes one of his best friends. They’ve known each other since their days playing basketball at the recreation center in the 60’s. He said they both started teaching at Decatur High in the late 70’s. Billingsley said that Fowlkes taught graphic design and his classrooms often had more than 30 kids. They were a mix of grade levels, but Fowlkes was known for never losing his cool.

Billingsley said Fowlkes’ finest moment as a coach came when his team placed second in the state cross country championships. Fowlkes thought Decatur’s team had come in first, but meet officials corrected him, telling him the team came in second. He gathered the team around to break the news.

“That was his finest moment, in my opinion, as a coach because he was able to get the kids to see beyond the moment and think about the great season that they had,” Billingsley said. “Sometimes things like this happen. The kids left disappointed but they were still thrilled about the season.”

Students and faculty are paying tribute to Eddie Fowlkes in their own ways. A group of former students are going to meet at Winnona Park at 8 a.m. on April 16, the day of his memorial service, to run the school’s old cross country course in his honor.

The memorial service will be held at North Avenue Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. He was an elder and a deacon there. The family has asked in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the Decatur High Sports History Project or his church.

Riley said Fowlkes was a “great guy, just the kind of guy you enjoy being around.”

“This man has tremendous faith,” Riley said. “He was really a very special man. I know he wasn’t afraid to go, but it was sure hard to lose him.”